MLB Trade Rumors updated its list of the top 60 trade deadline candidates, and the odd round number of 60 tips off the exercise’s rather arbitrary nature.
Ranking all the free agents sates an inherent Internet need for lists, but it’s an unwieldy tool to assess the market as a whole since teams don’t approach it that way (“I could use a first baseman, but there are 15 other players ranked higher...”). Once you filter the list by position, it’s a little easier to figure out what these rankings might actually accomplish.
The White Sox have four entries, and it probably should be five, but I won’t spoil the ending.
No. 4: David Robertson
Ranked ahead: Addison Reed (3)
Ranked behind: Pat Neshek (11), Juan Nicasio (18), Ryan Madson (19), Sean Doolittle (20)
It’s kinda funny to see the former Sox closer as a potential obstacle to dealing the current one, but at least Matt Davidson is hitting a little. The relief market could be divided based on whether one thinks teams want a proven closer, or if any proven high-leverage guy will do. The White Sox are in position to eat a little money, although they probably can’t be as aggressive as before now that Luis Robert’s bonus and overage tax are on the books.
No. 10: Jose Quintana
Ranked ahead: Sonny Gray (2).
Ranked behind: Justin Verlander (25).
There are other starting pitchers -- Scott Feldman, Trevor Cahill, Marco Estrada -- but Quintana’s contract should be a chief reason driving a team to acquire him, as it’s a boon for both small-market teams and luxury-tax hampered teams with dreams of getting under the threshold. Gray was quicker to return to form, but Quintana has been his old self over the last month. I only mention Verlander because he’s the next non-rental on the market (Chris Archer would be on this list, but the Rays are over .500).
No. 13: Todd Frazier
Ranked ahead: Jed Lowrie (9)
Ranked behind: Josh Donaldson (56)
Frazier’s had another maddening year at the plate. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, but he’s still popping out at a rate (17 percent) that undercuts his ability to get his batting average out of the low .200s. That said, he’s playing good defense, he’s hitting .259/377/.565 since the start of June, and there isn’t a comparable true third baseman on the market at his price. Not many teams need a true third baseman, but one team that could use one really could use one, and its chief competitor could use one enough to block an effort. Or so we hope.
No. 28: Melky Cabrera
Ranked ahead: J.D. Martinez (1), Jay Bruce (15), Curtis Granderson (16), Andrew McCutchen (23), Marcell Ozuna (24)
Ranked behind: Justin Upton (37), Seth Smith (47), Matt Joyce (48), Rajai Davis (58)
There isn’t a pressing need for left fielders/designated hitters among contenders, so it’s hard to see teams knocking down the door for Cabrera. But when you look at the other outfielders on this list, Cabrera has a few things going for him even accounting for his lack of range — switch hitter having a typical season, expiring contract, and probably a low acquisition cost, since the White Sox have no reason to keep him. He still strikes me as an August trade candidate given the lack of demand, but an injury or two could change his landscape.
Not ranked: Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak
I’ve argued that the Sox should make Kahnle part of their near-future plans, as the White Sox will already be navigating a lot of bullpen turnover, and there’s already a lot of relievers who need to be moved (Jeff Todd, the author, makes a similar argument).
Take Swarzak for instance. He bounced back from a rough spell to post six consecutive scoreless outings, striking out 11 to zero walks over 61⁄3 innings. He should have automatic appeal as a league-minimum guy who hits free agency after the season, and with the number of relievers on the market, the White Sox won’t have a ton of leverage. Considering he’s come out of nowhere, putting a number on him relative to dozens of others is difficult to do with any conviction.